- Historic Sites
R. G. Fiege, Circus Painter
Using the same bold colors that drew the rubes in to see the Giant Rat of Sumatra and the Three-Headed Calf, he painted a fanciful record of his world
August/september 1983 | Volume 34, Issue 5
T HE GREAT DEPRESSION was as hard on circuses as it was on every other enterprise, but during those years, R. G. Fiege managed to keep a circus job and to find enough spare time to produce a series of paintings documenting the life around him. Little is known of Fiege—his name does not appear in the vast files of Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin—but he was born in Ohio in 1887, died there eighty years later, and during part of that time earned his living as a sign and poster painter. He based most of his paintings on photographs and was careful to note on the back of each the number of hours he had spent working on it. Literal though he was, Fiege liked to include in his scenes the glorious, long-vanished gilt-and-crimson wagons of an earlier time; and so his paintings reveal more how Fiege felt about his world than they do of circus life in the straitened thirties.